Monday, November 19, 2007


The world report explicitly said it all, we need to work hard to conserve the biodiversity through our reduction of green house gases. As environmental scientists lets formulate our research questions to help policy makers, come out with informed decisions on whats to need be done to save this burning planet from green house gases.

Lead on the report:

Scientists paint dire picture of hotter life on Earth

Final U.N. report more alarming than predecessors


VALENCIA, Spain -- In its final and most powerful report, a U.N. panel of scientists describes the mounting risks of climate change in language that is more specific and forceful than its previous assessments, according to scientists here.
Synthesizing data from its three previous reports, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the first time specifically points out what is risked if governments fail to respond: melting ice sheets that could lead to a rapid rise in sea levels and the extinction of large numbers of species brought about by even moderate amounts of warming, on the order of 1 to 3 degrees.
The report carries heightened significance because it is the last word from the climate panel before world leaders meet in Bali, Indonesia, in December to begin to discuss a global climate change treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. It is also the first report from the panel since it shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in October -- an honor that many scientists here said emboldened the panelists to stand more forcefully behind their positions.
"This document goes further than any of the previous efforts," said Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Global Climate Change Program. "The pressure has been palpable -- people know they are delivering a document that will be cited for years to come and will define policy."
The previous three sections, released between February and April, focused on one issue at a time: the first on science, the second on how the world could adapt to warming, the third about how countries could "mitigate," or reduce, the greenhouse gases produced.
This fourth and final assessment -- the so-called synthesis report -- seeks to combine lessons from all three. Its conclusions are culled from data contained in the thousands of pages that were essentially technical supplements to the panel's previous publications. How that data is summarized and presented to the world will be a powerful guide to what the scientists consider of utmost importance at the end of a five-year process, offering concrete guidelines for policymakers.
"You look to a synthesis report to provide clarity, to clarify what was obscure in previous reports," said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University. "Now, how can we take these findings and formulate a policy response that's quick enough and big enough?"
Even though the synthesis report is more alarming than its predecessors, some researchers believe that it still understates the trajectory of global warming and its impact. The IPCC's scientific process, which takes five years of study and writing from start to finish, cannot take into account the very latest data on climate change or economic trends, which show much more development and energy use in China.
"The world is already at or above the worst-case scenarios in terms of emissions," said Gernot Klepper of the Kiel Institute for World Economy in Kiel, Germany. "In terms of emissions, we are moving past the most pessimistic estimates of the IPCC, and by some estimates, we are above that red line."
The panel presents several scenarios for the trajectory of emissions and climate change. In 2006, 8.4 gigatons of carbon were put into the atmosphere from fossil fuels, according to a study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science, which was co-authored by Klepper. That is almost identical to the panel's worst-case prediction for that year.
Likewise, a recent International Energy Agency report looking at the unexpectedly rapid emissions growth in China and India estimated that if current policies are not changed, the world would warm 6 degrees by 2030, a disastrous increase far higher than the panel's estimates of 1 to 4 degrees by 2100.
While the United States, Saudi Arabia and China tried to change the text in order to downplay the consequences of global warming, developing nations -- which will bear the initial brunt of climate change -- were much more forceful than at previous meetings in opposing these efforts, according to a scientist who was in the negotiating room. "I suspect that will continue," he said.
One novel aspect of the report is a specific list of "Reasons for Concern." It includes items that are thought to be very likely outgrowths of climate change that had been mentioned in previous reports, such as an increase in extreme-weather events.
But for the first time it includes less-likely but more-alarming possibilities, such as the relatively rapid melting of polar ice. Previous reports focused more on changes the scientists felt were "highly likely."
"This time they take a step back and look at the totality," Verolme said. "Saying it is less likely to occur, but if it does, we are fried."
One such area is the future melting of ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica. In earlier reports, the panel's scientists acknowledged that their computer models were poor at such predictions, and did not reflect the rapid melting that scientists have recently observed.
If these areas melt entirely, seas would rise 40 feet, scientists said. While scientists are certain that the sheets will melt over millennia, producing elevated sea levels, there is now evidence to suggest that it could happen much faster than that, perhaps over centuries.
"In my view, that would make it not just difficult, but impossible to adapt successfully; some of my colleagues would say catastrophic," said Oppenheimer.
This final report also puts more emphasis on the ripple effect of small degrees of temperature change, some of which are already being seen, such as species extinctions and loss of biodiversity.
"A relatively modest degree of warming -- 1 to 3 degrees -- spells a lot of trouble, and I think that was not clear in the previous report," Oppenheimer said.
He said part of the reason for the lack of clarity was that governments had "messed around" with the language and structure of the report during the approval process.
This time around, the consequences of different degrees of climate change will be better laid out so that the ministers who meet in Bali in December will understand the options and the consequences of inaction. "This should light a fire under policymakers," Oppenheimer said.

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